This past year, I got engaged. As a result, some days I find myself knee-deep in wedding planning sites and paying extra attention to what others are posting about their weddings on social media. What I’ve noticed breaks my heart. I keep seeing posts about people who feel devastated about how they looked in their wedding photos, their journey to lose weight for a certain event, or before-and-after photos with stories of how unhappy they were “before.” To make matters worse, my feed and inbox are often flooded with tips on “shredding for the wedding” or a pre-wedding weight loss boot camp. Unsubscribe.
We unfortunately live in a society where the desire to be thin overrides the desire to be happy. So many people spend countless hours hating their current body and obsessing over fitting into a certain size, as if their worth on their wedding day can be defined by an arbitrary number.
When I think about how I want to feel while I’m planning my wedding, I want to feel happy, excited, in love, and only slightly stressed about the color of the bridesmaids’ bouquets. What’s not on my list: feeling deprived, overexerted, or using all of my energy hating my body.
I know what you’re about to say—“But I just want to be healthy!” Health has many aspects including social, spiritual, physical, and emotional health. Feeling uncomfortable and hating your body certainly contributes to poor emotional health; however, losing weight will not fix that. If you have a goal of listening to your mind and body, and eating and moving in ways that feel good—great! But leave weight loss out of it.
This is the body I have now. This is the body that allows me to try new food with friends, is intimate with my fiancé, goes on walks with my dog, types this blog post, dances and does yoga, and hugs the people I care about. This is the body I have now, and I love every piece of it. So does my fiancé.
When it comes down to it, the only thing my fiancé cares about on our wedding day is 1. That I’m there and 2. That I’m happy, in love, and smiling. If I’m at my current weight or a different one (whether lower or higher), it won’t change the way we feel about each other.
Learning to unconditionally accept and love yourself at every point of your journey will drastically change the way you feel.
I know, I know, it’s way easier said than done and likely will not happen overnight but here are some ways to start:
You are worth more than a number on a scale or the size of a pair of jeans. Stop measuring things that don’t matter.
Instead, start measuring how happy you are, how many people are in your life, how many songs you listened to, how many things you’re doing that truly bring you joy. Try focusing on feeling good, and watch how you things return to a natural balance.
Focus on what you’re grateful for. If you were to write a thank you letter to your body, what would it say?
When I feel frustrated about my weight, I remind myself that I’m grateful for any weight on my body because it means that I have always had enough to eat. I am grateful for my body because it houses my mind, spirit, soul, and heart, without which I could not function. I am thankful for my hands because they allow me to write, to create, to build, and to love. My body does so many incredible things for me day after day, and I regret that I spent so much time and energy hating it in the past.
Stop waiting until you reach a goal to start appreciating and enjoying your body.
Life doesn’t wait for a goal weight—it’s happening right here, right now, every second of every day. Would you rather spend that time loving yourself or hating yourself? Go with love. It’s okay to have health goals and work towards them—as long as it’s furthering your happiness rather than preventing it.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone but yourself.
Everyone is unique and has different strengths and goals—focus on your own and let that guide you. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing, all that matters is that you are doing what is best for your emotional and physical health.
Instead of focusing on a weight or clothing size goal—focus on trying to enjoy the present moment and doing things that make you happy, and things will naturally start to shift.
Kait Vanderlaan is a supervisor at Crisis Text Line, a therapist, and in recovery. She is passionate about eating disorder awareness and suicide prevention. Kait loves yoga, hiking, music, and tacos.